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Homeless outreach teams

Law enforcement officers, often working as a specialized team with social workers and housing system partners, engage people experiencing homelessness in the community and respond to homelessness-related calls for service in an effort to connect them to housing and other services.

For more information on this intervention, see this resource:
Local Examples

Harris County, TX Houston Police Department (HPD)

  • HPD officers partner with staff from The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD's Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program to create the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT).
  • HOT provides outreach and linkage to services for people experiencing homelessness in Houston.
  • The team partners with community-based organizations to connect people to services, which include housing, medical care, and mental health treatment.
For more information on this example, see these resources:

Salt Lake County, UT Salt Lake City Police Department

  • The Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) connects people experiencing homelessness to social services and resources.
  • The team was developed through a partnership between the police department and homeless service providers.
  • The two HOST officers work in the same office as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers and assist with mental health cases and calls for services, among other responsibilities.
For more information on this example, see these resources:

Wichita, KS Wichita Police Department

  • The Wichita Police Department (WPD) has been operating a homeless outreach team (HOT) since 2013 that consists of four full-time officers and a supervisor.
  • The WPD HOT is responsible for responding to all 911 calls regarding people experiencing homelessness to keep this population out of jail, when possible, favoring diversion to services or shelters. Officers work in one-on-one settings to conduct proactive outreach to provide essential need items, educate people about available services and long-term housing, and connect them to resources when they are ready to engage.
  • Officers often take people directly to the providers, share information via email or a phone call, or hand-deliver referral documents to the individual. HOT officers must be well versed in provider referral processes since each program to which officers provide referrals operates differently.
  • HOT officers also assist with everything from resume writing and job referrals to helping people move into housing. They have flexible hours to respond to the needs of the people they are supporting.
  • Through these various strategies, the HOT helps connect more than 100 people annually to housing and helped decrease the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Wichita by 77 percent between 2013 and 2018.

Sarasota, FL

  • Sarasota has become a national model for homeless outreach after previously being known as the “Meanest City in America” for people experiencing homelessness due to its enforcement-centered approach. This transformation began when police leaders obtained the support of the city manager, who now funds two part-time homeless outreach teams (HOTs) composed of an officer and a civilian case manager.
  • HOT staff spent significant time working with the Continuum of Care (CoC) and other housing providers to develop mutual buy-in to set aside resources for people diverted from the justice system and prioritize those resources for people most in need.
  • Case managers also provide connections to other housing resources, including referrals to CoC programming and vouchers provided by the Sarasota Housing Authority.
  • Through these efforts, Sarasota reduced its population experiencing homelessness by over 50 percent in only three years (from 2016 to 2019).
Type

Program

Measures

1 - Reduce bookings into jail
3 - Increase connection to treatment
4 - Reduce recidivism